Sandy’s Garden ... No Longer a Cross Bencher

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Just one week ago, I told the tale … true, however contrived it may have seemed … of encountering a man from Network Rail starting to check the railway’s boundary fences in and around Polmont.

This happened at exactly the same time as I was beginning some much-needed maintenance on mine. I called us both ‘fencers’, which is the correct term for someone who works on fencing. And this week I propose to call myself a ‘bencher’, on the grounds that I have been undertaking maintenance on a garden bench which we very much hope to get good use out of in the light of optimistic forecasts of warm weather to come.

This particular bench is more properly described as a ‘companion seat’ or a ‘love seat’, although this latter term is an odd choice for two individual chairs which share a table between them, an excellent arrangement for enjoying drinks and nibbles on a sunny afternoon but certainly not the most convenient layout for what used to be called ‘canoodling’. Whatever, this particular companion seat is just two years old, having been bought in 2017 to replace one bought in the year 2000, this older one from the Rolls-Royce of garden furniture manufacturers, bought to commemorate the Millennium and intended to last a lifetime.

But it didn’t. To our dismay, the Rolls-Royce turned out to more akin to a Reliant Robin. Continuing the motoring metaphor, within a mere five years the rust had started to appear; the handsome claret paintwork was fading and becoming dull; and the whole thing was looking tired and sad. In garden bench terms, the first signs of wet rot were all-to-plainly visible; the individual slats of the seats and of the table had lost their matched colour and looked like a job lot assembled from an assortment of offcuts; and the entire seat looked a great deal older than it actually was. Annoyingly, the bench had been maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions … “keep this leaflet for future reference” … and, of course, with the passage of five years the warranty had lapsed. To say that these several unwanted outcomes made me cross is something of an understatement!

I was determined to keep this companion seat in use; and I spent many long hours over the next decade cleaning, stripping, sanding and treating the wood in several bids to restore the seat to its original splendour. Yes, for a few months I could make it look quite good: but all-too-soon the shabbiness returned, the last straw coming in the spring of 2016 when I realised that serious rotting had set in during the winter. The companion seat was life-expired, fit only for the scrap heap of gardening detritus. For a couple of years it languished … unloved, unused and unprotected … dumped in a secluded corner of the garden. Meanwhile, in 2017, we had bought a new, cheaper, bargain-of-the-month companion seat which remained in its delivery packaging for a twelvemonth when we discovered just how heavy it was in reality, having looked relatively light-weight in the garden centre display. Last year, we bit on the bullet, commissioned a fit odd-job man to assemble the new model and cut the Rolls-Royce into manageable pieces which we then took to a recycling site. Drinks on the patio on a warm summer evening returned to our agenda, our new companion seat with its satin-smooth factory finish adding to the enjoyment of these relaxing times.

We removed the winter cover recently to reveal a companion seat still looking very much like new. I faithfully followed the maintenance instructions in this manufacturer’s leaflet and … hey presto! … I now have an inexpensive companion seat looking, if anything, better than brand new, which makes me a very happy bunny rather than a cross bencher!